Stress-linked disorders increase the risk of later brain degeneration
One key problem the team faced was working out how the array should be structured. They knew it would need to be strong and long-lasting, despite the bulk of it being comprised of extremely fine microwires. They tackled this by insulating the individual wires in a biocompatible polymer and gathering them together in a metal collar, thereby ensuring the wires are separated from one another and correctly positioned.
The polymer is then removed from underneath the collar and each wire is guided directly into the brain. Current brain-interface machines only contain around one hundred wires, providing only as many signaling channels. Furthermore, each of the wires needs to be manually positioned in the array.
Partly supported by a “Big Ideas” grant from the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute, the team worked on refining the design for years, to ensure it would provide an array with thousands of signaling channels. "The design of this device is completely different”
"The design of this device is completely different from any existing high-density recording devices, and the shape, size, and density of the array can be simply varied during fabrication,” says co-author Jun Ding, an assistant professor of neurosurgery and neurology. “This means that we can simultaneously record different brain regions at different depths with virtually any 3D arrangement."
Ding points out that if the technology were applied in a broader context, it could expedite understanding of how the brain works in both a healthy state and in cases of the disease.
After many years of trying to develop the elegant technology, the researchers eventually created a device that they could test in living brain tissues. Obaid says they had to use kilometers of the fine wires to male arrays that were large enough in scale and then link them to the silicon chip: "After years of working on that design, we tested it on the retina for the first time and it worked right away. It was extremely reassuring." What is next?
Having conducted their first tests on retinal cells and in the brains of mice, the researchers have now begun longer-term testing in animals to assess durability and how larger-scale versions perform.
They are also investigating the types of information the array can record, with the results obtained so far suggesting that it may be possible to watch learning and failure processes in the brain in real-time.
The researchers hope that in the future, the technology could be used to enhance medical technologies such as prosthetics and devices for recovering lost speech or vision. Journal reference:
Also in Industry News
How to decide whether or not to start treatment for prostate cancer?
Analysis of the SARS-CoV-2 proteome via visual tools
$65m investment increases British Patient Capital’s exposure to life sciences and health technology